What was life like before we had smartphones and smart apps?
Apple has announced that it is adding some new features to its music streaming service Apple Music. Starting next month, users will find some new options, such as spatial audio with support for Dolby Atmos as well as lossless audio files.
Spotify recently announced a new high-end subscription tier with CD-quality, lossless audio files. But Spotify HiFi isn’t included in Spotify Premium by itself. You’ll have to pay a bit more money to stream lossless audio. Pricing hasn’t been disclosed yet.
Apple’s move is a bit different as lossless audio is going to be included in the basic Apple Music subscription tier. For $9.99 per month, you’ll be able to choose between various audio quality settings. By default, Apple and other streaming services compress audio files so that it doesn’t require a lot of bandwidth.
You can also choose CD-quality, lossless streaming — 16 bit at 44.1 kHz. In that case, you’ll receive lossless audio files. Behind the scenes, Apple uses its own lossless audio format (ALAC, Apple Lossless Audio Codec). But that shouldn’t have an impact as FLAC, WAV or ALAC files sound exactly the same — it’s lossless audio.
If you have a truly unlimited mobile plan, you can even choose 24 bit at 48 kHz or 24 bit at 192 kHz. In that case, the average weight of a song should be around 250MB — yep, that’s a lot of bytes. Apple says you have to use an external, USB digital-to-analog converter to take advantage of the hi-resolution lossless tier. Plugging a pair of headphones with your iPhone won’t cut it.
The entire Apple Music catalog of 75 million songs will support lossless audio. Music distributors already upload lossless audio files when they submit a song to streaming services. Adding lossless audio is all about surfacing those files to the end users.
As for spatial audio, it’ll be enabled by default on hardware that supports Dolby Atmos, such as AirPods and Beats headphones with an H1 or W1 chip. The most recent iPhone, iPad and Mac models also support Dolby Atmos. But it sounds like songs have to be remastered for Dolby Atmos specifically.
At first, only “thousands of songs” will support spatial audio. Artists include J Balvin, Gustavo Dudamel, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, Kacey Musgraves and The Weeknd. You’ll be able to identify those tracks with a badge in the user interface.
Voice social network Clubhouse said on Sunday it will expand its Android app worldwide in a week, days after launching a beta version of its service on Google-owned mobile operating system for users in the U.S.
The startup — backed by A16z, Tiger Global and DST Global and valued at about $4 billion — said it will roll out the Android app to Japan, Brazil, and Russia on Tuesday; Nigeria and India three days later, and rest of the world by Friday afternoon.
Clubhouse originally launched as an iPhone-only app last year. The app quickly gained popularity last year, attracting several high-profile celebrities, politicians, investors and entrepreneurs.
The startup began developing the Android app early this year and started to test the beta version externally this month. In a town hall earlier this month, the startup said availability on Android has been the most requested product feature.
Clubhouse’s global rollout on Android comes at a time when scores of technology firm including Facebook, Twitter, Discord, Spotify, Reddit and Microsoft’s LinkedIn, have either launched their similar offerings — or announced plans to do so.
Twitter’s clone of Clubhouse, called Spaces, has emerged as one of the biggest competitors.
Meanwhile, Clubhouse has struggled to maintain its growth pace in recent months — based on download figure estimates by several mobile insight firms. The Android app could potentially help the startup court more users.
The startup continues to maintain an invitation system for onboarding new users, saying that this is part of its effort to “keep the growth measured.”
The Android app of Clubhouse currently lacks a number of features. At the time of launch last week, users couldn’t follow a topic, create or manage a club, link their social profiles, make payments, or change their profile name of user name. The startup said it is working to bring iOS features to the Android app.
While Apple, Microsoft and the like were scrambling to bring their respective developer conferences online, Google made the executive design to just scrap I/O outright last year. It was a bit of an odd one, but the show went on through news-related blog posts.
While we’re going to have to wait another year to darken the doors of Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheater, the company has opted to go virtual for the 2021 version of the show. Understandably so. Google apparently has a lot up its sleeves this time.
Last month, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai teased some big news on the tech giant’s investor call, noting, “Our product releases are returning to a regular cadence. Particularly excited that our developer event — Google I/O — is back this year, all virtual, and free for everyone on May 18th-20th. We’ll have significant product updates and announcements, and I invite you all to tune in.”
From the sound of it, next week’s event will find Google returning to form following what was a rough year for just about everyone. So, what can we expect from the developer-focused event?
Android 12 is the biggie, of course. From a software development standpoint, it’s a lynchpin to Google’s ecosystem, and for good reason has pretty much always taken centerstage at the event.
The developer version of Google’s mobile operating system has been kicking for a while now, but it has offered surprisingly little insight into what features might be coming. That’s either because it’s going to be a relatively minor upgrade as far as these things go or because the company it choosing to leave something to the imagination ahead of an official unveiling.
What we do know so far is that the operating system is getting a design upgrade. Beyond that, however, there are still a lot of question marks.
Google Assistant is likely to get some serious stage time, as well, coupled with some updates to the company’s ever-growing Home/Nest offerings. Whether that will mean, say, new smart displays on Nest speakers is uncertain. Keep in mind, hardware is anything but a given. The big Pixel event, after all, generally comes in the fall. That said, June is an ideal mid-marker during the year to refresh some other lines.
The likeliest candidate for new hardware (if there is any) is a new version of the company’s fully wireless earbuds — which the company has accidentally leaked out once or twice. The Pixel Buds A are said to sport faster pairing, and if their name is any indication, will be a budget entry.
Speaking of which… earlier this year, Google made the rather unorthodox announcement confirming that the Pixel 5a 5G is on the way. Denying rumors that have been swirling around the Pixel line generally, the company told TechCrunch in a statement, “Pixel 5a 5G is not cancelled. It will be available later this year in the U.S. and Japan and announced in line with when last year’s a-series phone was introduced.” Given that the 4a arrived in August, we could well be jumping the gun here. Taken as a broader summer time frame, however, it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility here.
Wear OS has felt like an also-ran basically for forever. Rebrands, revamps and endless hardware partners have done little to change that fact. But keep in mind, this is going to be Google’s first major event since closing the Fitbit acquisition, so it seems like a no-brainer that the company’s going to want to come on strong with its wearable/fitness play. And hey, just this week, rumor broke that Samsung might be embracing the operating system after years of customizing Tizen.
Things kick off Tuesday morning May 18 at 10 a.m. PT, 1 p.m. ET with a big keynote.
Repairability has been a big sticking point for consumer electronics over the past several years. As devices have gotten thinner — and companies have pushed to maintain control over proprietary systems — many devices have become near impossible for an every-day person to repair.
It’s an issue for a number of reasons — not the least of which is an inability to upgrade a system instead of scrapping it altogether. In a world where human impact on the environment is increasingly top of mind, forced obsolescence is an understandably important issue for many.
Framework is one of an increasing number of companies working to address these issues. It’s a list that also includes products like Fairphone on the mobile side. It’s a niche versus the overall market, to be sure, but it’s one that could well be growing. Announced in January, the Framework Laptop is up for preorder today. The 13.5-inch notebook starts at $999 and will start shipping at the end of July.
The SF-based company had initially targeted spring shipping, but ongoing chip supply problems have delayed the product. The system actually doesn’t look half-bad for a product and company that are clearly repair/upgrade-first.
There are three basic configurations — Base, Performance and Professional, ranging from $999 to $1,999, upgrading from an Intel Core i5, 8GB of Ram and 256GB of storage to a Core i7 and 32GB/1TB. Windows also gets upgraded from Home to Pro at the top level. At $749, the company offers a barebones shell, where users can plug in their own internals.
Other upgrades include:
On top of that, the Framework Laptop is deeply customizable in unique ways. Our Expansion Card system lets you choose the ports you want and which side you want them on, selecting from four at a time of USB-C, USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, MicroSD, ultra-fast 250GB and 1TB storage, and more. Magnetic-attach bezels are color-customizable to match your style, and the keyboard language can be swapped too.